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September 13

“‘Til those lights come up, and we hear that crowd, and we remember why we came …”

Jackson Browne, “The Load Out”

In case you hadn’t heard, there was a pretty good marlin bite this weekend. How good was it? Huh-huh-huh …

Every once in a while, a reporter gets a little too close to the action and becomes a part of the story he’s trying to report. My personal favorite is the local NYC reporter doing a live shot from the base of the burning Twin Towers. He was saying, “This is as close as the police will let us get” when his cameraman panned upward to see the first tower falling on top of them. Somehow, they survived.

I’ve been at this marlin game a long time, but I see myself as a chronicler first and an angler second. I want to catch fish, but it’s more important to me that I convey the excitement of the sport and pass along knowledge. I know what I’m doing out there, but no one is going to write tributes to my mad marlin skills.

This weekend, though, I became my own story. Somehow, I caught three marlin on Saturday. I won’t bore you with the details, since by now you should have read the Trip Report – because you should have been there writing your own – or heard the story. It was an amazing day, but just part of the bigger picture.

The real story was the movement of marlin into the waters around Catalina Island. HOOKER found them 3 miles off Church Rock Friday, and was able to get a pair of releases. In addition to my three HOOKER releases Saturday, ISLAND PRINCESS released a pair and several boats got single fish. Further off the island, KAWAKAWA released a pair on the 152, and FREIGHT BEGGAR was among those who found success on the Avalon Bank.

The lesson to be learned from this weekend is that where there is bait, there might be marlin, but if there’s no bait, there’s no marlin. By Saturday, the abundant bait seen earlier off Church Rock (300 feet of solid bait at some places) had moved on, taking the marlin with it. Initially, the fleet found marlin on the Avalon Bank, but the majority of the fish slid up the backside of the island.

Finally, it appears that the San Diego bite has petered out, particularly the one off Pukey Point. Of course, it’s been so warm, it may just be that the stripes are moving out to make room for the blues:-)

So … which one of these guys looks more like a leader to you?

You may recall that we reported a “healthy population of marlin” seen off the west end of Catalina last week. Part of the surprise of the weekend was the lack of fish caught there, although AGITATOR did release one near the 499 on Sunday.

The tourney guys pay too much to be surprised, so when the Zane Grey kicked off Monday, they knew where to go. While some fish were taken on the Avalon Bank, the majority were caught between the 499 and 172 spots between Catalina and Santa Barbara Islands. On Day 1, 12 marlin were released, with TRAUMA, BAD DOG II and C-BANDIT leading the way with two released each. fortunately, only one marlin was killed, a 181-lber by C-BANDIT.

I haven’t seen the final results yet today, but I believe there were 15 more fish released, with the only weighed marlin being a undersized fish by CHASER. It should be interesting to see how the results shake out, since the point system used in the event gives 378 points to the one legal weighed fish and 100 points to each release. How sweet would it be for released fish to win …

Sportsmen are a superstitious lot. Many athletes have their own special rituals they perform to insure their success (or so they believe). Fishermen are no different, I suppose, and many of us have our own little superstitions.

I wouldn’t necessarily call it a superstition, but we do have a little victory ritual we perform when we catch a marlin, and we’ve been fortunately enough to do so several times this season. Anytime we catch a marlin during the day, we play the Jackson Browne tune “The Load Out/Stay” on the way to the anchorage. I have no idea how it started, but none of us would dare mess with it. For the longest time, I wondered why that particular song seemed to resonate so with the team. A couple of years ago, though, it dawned on me that it is a perfect description of the challenges a marlin crew faces. The song describes the life of the touring musician, moving town to town and killing time between shows. The reward, of course, is the all-too-short time spent on stage.

That gypsy life has a lot of parallels with the marlin fisherman. We spend a lot of time on the water, often away from family and friends, in the singleminded pursuit of marlin. People who have not lived the life don’t understand it, and it is not something you can explain easily. Like the character in the song, there is a lot of long, empty hours, punctuated by those sweet moments when you fight the fish.

When I hear that song on the way in, I am reminded of all that has gone into the moment – the work and luck, success and failure. I don’t know if I could ever really explain why I consider this sport so special; all I know is that I was incredibly aware of just how special those moments are this weekend …and I remembered exactly why I came …

Remember when the Los Angeles Times Outdoor section used to be a great source of fishing information? I used to love Pete Thomas’ column. I was reading the Generation-X version it has become today – all I can say is “pathetic” …

Often, SCMO is much like the Kingdom of Oz – so much so, in fact, our motto ought to be “Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.” We work very hard to make things look smooth and professional, and most of the time, we succeed.

But the reality is that this is a one-man operation – me. If it’s going to get done, I have to do it, and if I don’t, it won’t.

It’s always a challenge for me to keep up with the site at this time of year, but this season is particularly tough. We’re getting a lot of new MNAC members, each of which must be manually added to two different computer systems, and this is the busiest season for the Fishing News. Making things even more eventful, I’m right in the middle of a particularly contentious job change at Boeing, and the hours are particularly long as I transition from one assignment to the other. And, now that I’ve found myself in the middle of the race to catch the most fish, I’m spending a lot more time on the water than I’d imagined.

The point? I understand that things aren’t getting done, and wanted you to know that I understood. I get a lot of emails from members with questions that don’t get answered quickly; membership applications that aren’t processed quickly; and tutorial chapters that aren’t getting published quickly. The reality is that it won’t get much better in the next couple of weeks as I prepare for two tournaments, but I’ll do all I can to minimize the inconveniences.

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